It’s remarkable to think that Cleto Munari has seen as much design history as he has. We say this because his vibrant sensibilities and lively curiosity make the fact that he is 84 years old a surprising one. He’s pictured here, as a young man, with Carlo Scarpa and Ettore Sottsass. If you know anything about design, you recognize those names as iconic; ironically, you may be less likely to know Munari’s name because he has always been the force behind making sure that cutting-edge designs find their way into the marketplace rather than the face associated with the products. This doesn’t mean he’s not a dreamer and a designer, though as he so pointedly told JoAnn Locktov—founder of Bella Figura Communications and a leading light in the social media and public relations arenas—he calls himself neither.
Her meeting him is a story in itself: “In 2006, I was celebrating my birthday in Venice with eight American friends and eight Italian friends (it was a big birthday!) and my friend Eric Engstrom discovered that Cleto had worked with Carlo Scarpa. Being a Scarpa fanatic, Eric found the address of Cleto’s studio in Vicenza and all of us Americans went to visit! Can you imagine? Eight Americans up three flights of stairs, knocking on the door of this enchanting studio and being greeted by Cleto amidst the most stunningly designed glass, silver and furniture you could imagine! It was like a museum exhibit that started with the most beautiful Italian design of the seventies (with Scarpa and Sottsass), and continued through Botta, Mendini, Graves, Meier, Hollein, Ho, Malevic, Portoghesi, Palterer, Vieira, Ito, Tusquets and, of course, Cleto’s own magnificent designs. It was like strolling along the architecture walk of fame!”
Imagine JoAnn’s surprise when she learned last week that Cleto would be putting his personal collection up for auction on April 24 at Pierre Bergé in Brussels. “Work by Scarpa, Sottsass, Palladino, Mendini, and many other architects and artists will be auctioned off,” she remarks. “The Warhol portrait of Scarpa was a revelation to me: I didn’t know it existed! Apparently after Scarpa died, Cleto asked Warhol to paint the portrait in homage to his dear friend. Warhol agreed, using a photo of the lauded architect. I can’t even imagine how many other stories there are, and the fact that Cleto is starting anew at 84 is a clear sign there is no stopping this man!”
For a peek into the literary tastes of the design connoisseur, read his booklist and the interview conducted by Steve Kroeter on his site Designers & Books. If you haven’t visited Designers & Books before—or even if you have—you might want to take some time on the site. It’s a varied survey of what’s on designers’ and architects’ bookshelves. There are offerings aplenty, as Cleto Munari’s picks represent the 99th list posted on the site. Congratulations to Kroeter and managing editor Stephanie Salomon for a job well done when it comes to tapping fascinating creatives to share their insights. We at adroyt have had the pleasure of meeting both of them and hearing about the passion with which they approach their site. Time to curl up and read for a while!
If you are fortunate enough to make it to the auction, we’d love to hear about it firsthand. We’ll be stuck here in social media land: *sigh*! Of course, you don’t have to be in Belgium to acquire these iconic objects d’art, simply bid online!
For a wider variety of images, visit The Curated Object, one of our favorite sites for news about the curated world of the Cleto Munari Collection!
We’re rolling out another installment of Productrazzi for our next post, featuring a groovy re-release of Joe Colombo’s 4801 Armchair by Kartell. We won’t be slighting you, as design visionaries Marcel Wanders and Ron Arad are also in the mix. You know when you see the Centre Pompidou, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Victoria & Albert Museum in the same post, it’s going to be chock full of provenance!